Villagers celebrate as every home gets a toilet

January 29th, 2009 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Purulia (West Bengal), Jan 29 (IANS) The setting up of toilets to end open defecation may be a mundane affair in urban India but it became a cause for celebration in a cluster of villages in Purulia district of West Bengal.Members of self-help groups and youth clubs gathered here Wednesday to witness the fruits of their labour and celebrate as Matha gram panchayat became the first cluster of villages to end open defecation in the district.

Bilasibala Sahis, the beaming district council chief, proudly declared that Matha Gram Panchayat now has 100 percent toilet coverage.

“By 2010 we will make sure that 50 percent of Purulia’s gram panchayats will be open defecation free,” she said while addressing a rally attended by a jubilant crowd of over 10,000.

Matha gram panchayat is a predominantly tribal area of Purulia. All 1,929 households in this village cluster live below the poverty line. The primary source of their income is agriculture or farm labour.

Around 124 women self-help groups active in this area have been being prime motivators in the campaign to end open defecation. They closely worked with the local district administration, civil society, elected members of the panchayati raj institutions and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

“The efforts of self help groups here are praiseworthy and this could act as a catalyst to scale up sanitation coverage in the district,” Unicef’s child environment specialist S.N. Dave told IANS.

“The West Bengal government has already started engaging self help groups to improve sanitation coverage across the state now,” he added.

“Purulia is an Unicef intervention district in West Bengal. The state has a high sanitation coverage of 76 percent but some districts like Bankura, Birbhum, Murshidabad, Uttar Dinajpur and South Dinajpur have low levels of sanitation coverage,” another Unicef official said.

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